T Nation

Do Rep Ranges Really Matter?


#1

TLDR : Is there really any differences in the physiology of training muscles at 3,5,8 and 10 reps? What are the theories/evidence for this?

Over the past half year or so I have really been pushing myself in the gym, going 6 times a week, working mainly using a simple bodybuilding split. Focusing mainly on compound movements and using rep ranges of 8-10. The reason I chose this range was because in one of lectures about strength and conditioning 8-10 reps was described as the range for optimal hypertrophy.

I have been experiencing good gains in my upper body, mainly traps and lats but have been lacking growth in my legs. This lead me to ask for help from a trainer at my gym who has given me a workout plan with three full body workouts per week. He has also chosen 10 reps.

However, before launching into my new program I just wanted to ask if anyone knew the reasoning behind using 10 reps for hypertrophy. From what I have learnt muscles are composed of different types of fibers. The ones responsible for hypertrophy are the fast twitch fibers which grow in size over time when lead to fatigue and allowed to rest with adequate nutrients.

I realize this is very simplified, and there is the activity of different hormones that also has an effect. However, what I don't understand is why there would be a difference in muscle growth or strength gains when using rep ranges of 3 or 8 if the fast twitch fibers are fatigued in both cases (using different %1repmax for each rep range). In both cases the weights are lifted explosively with the concentric emphasized.

I know a lot of what is done in the gyms is more tried and tested rather then scientifically proven but I was just wondering if there was any evidence for the perceived differences.


#2

I have always had the best gains from using a variety of rep ranges. I use primarily 3-15 reps with occasional singles. Mix it up.


#3

Because they aren't fatigued equally in both cases unless you compensate for the lower reps with more overall volume.

If you lift a weight only one time, even if it is challenging, the chances of recruiting the majority of the fibers involved is lessened the few reps are done.

Think of it like this...your body cares about your survival...not your looks. Would it really make sense for it to shoot its load for every single strength attempt...or to fire a few and then more and more as the necessity of the lift is increased?

There is nothing magical about the number "10"...but there is a huge difference in how your body responds between very low reps and higher rep ranges.


#4

Honestly if I'm eating enough I notice no difference in growth doing high reps or low reps.


#5

Prof X:
Because they aren't fatigued equally in both cases unless you compensate for the lower reps with more overall volume.

If you lift a weight only one time, even if it is challenging, the chances of recruiting the majority of the fibers involved is lessened the few reps are done.

Think of it like this...your body cares about your survival...not your looks. Would it really make sense for it to shoot its load for every single strength attempt...or to fire a few and then more and more as the necessity of the lift is increased?

There is nothing magical about the number "10"...but there is a huge difference in how your body responds between very low reps and higher reps

So would there an ideal rep and set number for optimal type 2 fibre recruitment? And does this change for different muscles? - I see people often doing higher reps for legs.

Is more volume always better?


#6

more volume is better if you can recover from it. what compounds are you doing for your leg growth? if you arent doing front squats and goblet squats, i reccomend them whole heartedly.


#7

It's secret... but I'll give you a hint. Your over thinking it.


#8

its called time under tension. your muscles have to be under stress for a certain amount of time for growth stimulant to occur.


#9

O.K. I am definitely over thinking this I agree, but I just find it difficult to do things without knowing the science behind them. Is there such a thing as functional hypertrophy, relative strength and total hypertrophy? or is there just muscle hypertrophy - that leads to strength increases and nervous changes that also lead to strength increases? I find it hard to understand why muscles would get bigger if they didn't also get stronger - apart from with inflammation.

Sorry if this is leading away from the original thread title but I feel it is related.


#10

read CT's article "High tension training"...

he explains what causes muscular growth.....ignore his routine, though...a standard bodybuilding split will work just fine, assuming you are eating enough calories/protein to gain muscle...

look at king beef's thread for an idea of how to set one up...


#11

And what amount of time would that be?


#12

Your goals are important. What your want to achieve and your current condition should inform your rep choice. Many begin with the "starting strength" program.

But 6 months, well, this game (regardless of goal) is measured in years.

The primary way we get stronger, at least at first is via the neural adaptation. Your body learns to recruit more and more neurons.

Post your goals, stats, and lifts... I'm pretty sure you'll get more then an earful.

Personally, I'm 3 years into lifting seriously. I've been and continue to be well served by 5x5 of variation of Arnold's Big six (various splits from fb to upper lower to upper lower push/pull) I started seeing real progress after lifts went over certain ratios relative to Body weight... 1:1 on squats, deads, bench and rows...

As previously hinted at: Nutrition is critical, as is sleep hygiene (my Achilles's heal)...


#13

Something that's often under-appreciated is the relationship between reps/set and total reps performed.

As an example, 2-3 reps per set is usually prescribed for maximum strength development, and is considered to have limited impact in hypertrophy. However, if enough TOTAL reps are performed (for example, 10-12 x3) then total workloads reach the point where hypertrophy can be stimulated


#14

16.519 seconds, idiot.

For real though....the stronger you get, I firmly believe the more hypertrophy you can achieve from lower rep ranges, for the simple reason that your body gets better at more quickly recruiting all its muscle fibers as you gain experience. So a 3rm might only use 65% of the quads' muscle fiber for a newbie's squat, but the 20 year veteran might use 95% of his muscle fibers for his 3rm, because his body is used to having to quickly call into motion as many muscle fibers as possible. All about forcing your body to adapt to what you throw at it...while intelligently manipulating volume and frequency as you go.


#15

Volume is volume.

Some people grow better from low reps. Some from higher reps. And some from really high reps.

As you get bigger you do more volume. Most people should be doing all rep ranges.

Congratz, you are now a bodybuilder because you read this post. Your certificate is in the mail.


#16

so what would be a better workout hypertrophy wise (in theory)?

(doing straight sets just for to have a fair comparison)

135x10 for 3 sets
or
135x3 for 10 sets

the advantage of the first is more TUT and the advantage of the second is more force production

(and please don't put "both" as an answer)


#17

Doing the reps is easy...
You guys have discipline far beyond what I can achieve in sleeping and eating.

I think this discipline is a defining factor for BB'ers... Me I get SO HUNGRY after a good lift. So damn hungry.


#18

Rep range is just one variable, the load and volume (among other things) are going to influence how many reps you do on a particular set.
I wouldnt get caught up in this mentality that one particular way is "ideal" just because a few studies say so. These studies are not conducted on guys like us, and they don't run over years and decades.


#19

Have you done triples?

If for strength, the only way possible would be drop sets, and unwise even then.

If weight is high enough to be a proper triple, you might get a second set, perhaps a third if you waited long enough.
You're certainly tempting the god's injury wise...

The dark side is as much a discipline as BB.


#20

There is no definative study on this.

If you do them both in the same amount of time I doubt there would be much difference.

Get in the gym and find out what you like doing. After a few months you will know if it worked.